Days after Tom Brady announced his return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tight end Rob Gronkowski finally said something about his own future.
A barber and fellow customers heard it first when he went to a Tampa area barbershop on Wednesday, March 16. WDAE’s Zac Blobner shared the video of the incident.
“It’s a very good chance,” Gronkowski told them about returning.
“I’ll let him have a little scare…a couple months without me and then, ya know,” Gronkowski said with a smile. “He just did it to me for a couple months, I’m gonna do it to him now.”
Gronkowski, 32, became a free agent this week with the new NFL year, and teams such as the Buffalo Bills showed interest already. The Bills signed recent Bucs tight end O.J. Howard on Wednesday instead. Howard signed a one-year contract that could pay him up to $5 million according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Gronkowski alluded to retiring instead of playing elsewhere when the offseason began, too. The future Hall of Famer endured rib and back injuries during the 2021 season, which only added to his lengthy injury history.
“You’ve got to give it some time, you’ve got to rest to see how everything goes, to see how everything plays out, how I feel,” Gronkowski told TMZ Sports in January. “I just want to heal completely, see where my thoughts are from there then.”
Speculation of Gronkowski’s retirement ensued after Brady announced his retirement on Feb. 1. Brady officially changed course on Sunday, March 13.
What Gronkowski May Cost the Bucs
Gronkowski ranks 15th overall on Pro Football Focus’ list of remaining free agents. He’s also the top remaining tight end with Seattle’s Gerald Everett behind him at 26th.
Despite missing five games to injury, Gronkowski posted strong numbers in 2021 with 55 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns. His connection with Brady remained unparalleled with 90 regular season touchdown connections.
“We’ve played together — I know basically every situation that’s come up. I know how he would deal with it,” Brady said of Gronkowski in a December 2021 press conference.
Spot Trac proposes Gronkowski could command $9.5 million annually in free agency. His last one-year contract with the Bucs paid him $8 million.
The Bucs have $7.96 million in salary cap space overall as of Saturday, March 19, per Spot Trac. Tampa Bay cleared cap space on Thursday, March 17, by restructuring wide receiver Mike Evans’ $14 million contract according to Greg Auman of The Athletic.
Besides Gronkowski, the Bucs have 22 more free agents to potentially sign. That list includes running back Leonard Fournette and defensive starters Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Will Gholston.
Gronkowski Anticipated Brady’s Return
Gronkowski believed that Brady didn’t hang up his cleats permanently after announcing retirement.
“The guy can play at any age,” Gronkowski told USA Today before Super Bowl LVI. “If he’s 50 years old, he can still come back. I think he’s going to come back but in a couple of years. The guy’s a beast. He can play anytime.”
Brady’s retirement lasted less than two months instead. During his brief retirement, Brady shared his thoughts on whether Gronkowski will continue his NFL career.
“I don’t know. I certainly hope … I mean, I’ve watched him basically practice and play since he started in the NFL,” Brady told host Jim Gray during the Feb. 14 “Let’s Go!” podcast. “He can certainly do it. It’s a big commitment for all of us. It’s a big commitment to keep playing.”
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